Founded in 1998, today Critical Software has more than 1000 employees spread across 10 offices in Coimbra, Porto, Lisbon, London, Munich, and San Jose (California). Specialising in software development and systems engineering, it has clients such as the European Space Agency, NASA, Airbus, or the European Maritime Safety Agency.
Critical is also one of the few software companies in the world with a CMMI maturity level 5 rating, which demonstrates their agile culture and a quest for continuous improvement. Therefore, Critical’s FM also needs to respond to the demands of so many employees while maintaining an agile methodology and a strategic vision of the business.
It was precisely about agility and adaptability that we spoke with Miguel Valério, head of Facility Management at Critical Software since 2018. Due to his extensive experience in the sector, he was one of the experts we consulted on FM trends. Now, you can read the full interview about the challenges we face and the determining factors for the future of FM.
Miguel, what’s the main challenge for Facility Management right now?
The first challenge will surely be the openness and ability to incorporate FM under a strategic lens, against the strictly operational approach of the past. Current and future trends demand that. Agile and flexible management, with enormous adaptability, is a part of any FM’s DNA.
However, it should be a constant effort. That way, organisations can focus on their business models and be assured that their entire operation is supported in the best possible way, in the most cost-effective manner. In that sense, service integration will be one of the trends with the highest acceptance. This approach allows internal teams to focus on activities with greater added value and that generate bigger results, be it for management and/or for users.
“Flexibility, collaboration, and experience should guide future workplaces”
Will the pandemic continue to disrupt the sector?
The workplace is constantly evolving, which represents a second challenge. In a short time frame, new policies, approaches and work habits led to a shift in workplace paradigms in many industries. And there will be key points that should guide future workplaces:
- Flexibility, given that facilities should adapt to each activity/ occasion, assuring companies the optimisation of their space and offering users the chance to work with a variety of options at their disposal;
- Collaboration, which is the way spaces potentiate communication, the interaction between teams, and productivity in a comfortable, efficient and safe manner;
- Experience, which allows an organisation to offer something unique to their workers throughout the workday.
“We’ll see intelligent workplaces – completely digital ecosystems where the synergy between the physical and virtual worlds will be enhanced.”
The pandemic accelerated digital transformations across the board and FM was not an exception. What do you think will be the implications in the long term?
Indeed, technology could be a synonym for the word “future”. A good deal of what will become the future of FM depends directly on technology. At the moment, FM is going through a digital transformation, which will grow exponentially in the next few years. For the time being, from a managerial standpoint, we rely on automated systems, sensors, and aggregated information for decision-makers, on digital platforms.
In the future, these platforms will become increasingly mobile for everyone in the operational chain, from managers to operators. From the user’s point of view, technology and FM will evolve and we’ll see intelligent workplaces – completely digital ecosystems where the synergy between the physical and virtual worlds will be enhanced.
Which technologies will enable those intelligent workplaces?
If we think about the potential of the integration of IoT systems with augmented reality, we quickly come up with a series of use cases for our facilities or to customise each user’s experience. Therefore, augmented reality will be one of the greatest trends in the mid-term.
At the same time, robotics and its adoption are also on the rise, be it in cleaning operations or in handling chemical or hazardous products, thus improving safety standards. Decision-making will be wholly data-based, which allows us to estimate the cost and performance of the organisation, and make decisions without losing sight of the user’s experience.
Besides the challenges we will face in the future, with all the workplace changes and new technologies, which should be our main worry in the long term?
The ultimate challenge is sustainability. Without it, there’s no future. That’s everyone’s challenge and FM is no exception, on the contrary. We should take on that responsibility and contribute to introducing sustainable practices and investments, such as equipment manufactured with recycled materials and renewable energy sources. We should set up sustainable practices at the workplace and raise awareness among all facility users.
Obviously, big changes within organisations require adjustments in facility management. However, FM is not always a priority for companies. How can managers shift this mindset?
Adaptability will be key to face new challenges. Even if there is a clear vision about the future, it’s not always possible to go forward and implement everything one would wish for, given that balancing finances and budgeting often compromise innovations in FM.
Cost management is the first hurdle to overcome in order to implement new technology and expand digitisation. For this reason, delivering the basics – which is ensuring service levels, the safety and efficiency of the operation – sets the ground for, slowly but surely, introducing further innovation and showcasing its added value.
“FM companies will need to shift their paradigm from “maintenance per si” to integrated services: management, operation and project management”
Assuming that cost management is no longer a hurdle, and that there is enough budget to innovate, how can FM make itself indispensable?
FM should be a cornerstone. Starting from advising on the company’s greatest challenges to defining, supporting and implementing solutions – from their logistic plan to workplace innovation, and even managing new projects. The balance between resource optimisation and managing several stakeholders’ expectations will always be a great challenge to pave the way for the future.
FM companies will need to shift their paradigm from “maintenance per si” to integrated services. This integration should cover all aspects of management, operation and project management. Regarding management, the structures that enable those services still need to be created or to evolve from a one-off tool to a complimentary one, right from the operation’s inception.
In the operational field, the focus should be on end-users to actively contribute to their positive experience and, consequently, to increase productivity. In terms of project management, in a future that’s predicted to change at an even faster pace, the focus should fall on the integration between operations and project management, which may go from contingency plans to fit-outs. The ability to deliver this type of value – taking advantage of the existing relationship, synergies and existing logs – will certainly be a win-win model for everyone involved.
Given that outsourcing is so common in FM, the ability to deliver that kind of added value is the best way to set companies apart?
Certainly. Using new technologies and differentiated ways to deliver services will set companies apart in the decision-making process for similar contracts, particularly in a context that will surely be more competitive and in which delivery will be heavily scrutinised.
You’ve already said that technology could be a “synonym for the word future”. Is that the best word to describe the future of FM?
The best word would be innovation.
Several words may define FM’s future, like “adaptability” or “foresight”. However, the future will be characterised by innovation, at several levels and in different contexts.
Facility management’s core philosophy, which is that of foreseeing problems, is key. Therefore, every tool, technology and process improvement that allows us to make better decisions will enable FM to be more efficient and to become an added value for the organisation it is a part of.
FM will always be the ‘agent’ that, after identifying several challenges, will implement and deliver the solution that enables sustainable growth and user productivity and, by extension, the success of the business.
In a world that’s constantly evolving, the leaders pave the way to turn today’s trends into tomorrow’s standards.
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